The day had arrived, ushered in by the insufferable ringing of my alarm clock. It felt like I had barely slept, and that was because in total, it seemed I had only gotten about three hours of rest.
I feel like crap…
I sat at the edge of the bed, wishing I wouldn’t have woken up at all. But my parents knocking on my adjoining door snapped me out of that zone. They ensured that I was up and took me, Mizuki, and Eva out to breakfast. After that, Eva went over some extra combat techniques with me.
The rest of the day was a blur I spent in a haze. Time felt like it was dragging onward, but it might as well have been fast forwarding, because I could only focus on the fight to come, and before I knew it, the evening had arrived. We were brought to Royal Stadium and separated. I was taken to my dressing room while they were taken to their seats in the audience.
I unzipped my bag and took out my newly acquired jumpsuit. I put it on and analyzed my reflection. A small smile tugged at my lips when I thought about how Mizuki picked it out for me. I imagined that it, along with the choker around my neck, bestowed some kind of divine protection upon me.
As I slipped my boots and gloves on, the king appeared on the monitor in the room. He was standing beside the queen and Cynthia, high above the massive crowd in a deluxe VIP box. Cynthia appeared notably sick to her stomach.
With spotlights shone on him, the king spoke. “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I thank you all for coming together on relatively short notice. I think it’s safe to say that only the gods could have foreseen the events that would set this all in motion.”
The gods of cheesecake, maybe.
“It warms my heart to see how many of you from all over the world came to witness history! This is the first time that the opt-out clause in the White Knight Contract has ever been invoked, and it is my great honor to oversee this shocking moment in history with all of you. The fate of this great kingdom, as well as the entire world, could look very different after the battle between these two young men. Realizations like that make even a man of my position feel miniscule.”
The more he talks about it, the more it seems like he and the queen were just bored and waiting for something stupid and chaotic to happen. You’d think the most powerful people in the world would have something better to do.
“But there has been enough talk. It’s time for the fight to commence! Bring out the competitors!”
The audience roared with excitement and the door to my dressing room swung open. A man in a black suit said, “time to go, kid. You’re on.”
I forced a puff of air from my lips and followed closely behind him. We walked all the way up to the entrance tunnel to the main arena, and he stepped aside, leaving me to enter the field alone.
An announcer with quite the booming voice shouted, “entering the battlefield first, from the kingdom of Steylia, fighting out of Valport city in the province of Fabrea, Shinsuke Watanabe!”
A chorus of boos rained down from every section of the audience. It was deafening.
What the hell are they booing me for? Do these idiots really want Emil to marry Cynthia?
There was a referee standing in the middle of the field and I assumed I was supposed to make my way to him. As I approached him, I surveyed the battlefield. It was exactly as Cynthia had described back at the café. The area was divided into different elemental sections, with a small forest, a rocky area, a sandy area, icy area, and some other strange variations around.
I also noticed my parents, Mizuki, and Eva up in another VIP skybox. They were far too high up for me to see them in detail, but I was glad to know where they were, at least.
When I made it to the center, the referee told me to wait there as the announcer made his second announcement.
“And, entering the battlefield second, from the kingdom of Gliyrhiel, fighting out of the capital city of Edoburgh, His Royal Highness, Prince Emil LeClair!”
Emil emerged from the other entrance tunnel, clad in a white and dark blue athletic shirt and dark blue sweat shorts. Of course, the audience cheered for him, and he took his sweet time soaking in the adulation as he approached the center of the field.
“Okay gentlemen,” the referee addressed us once Emil arrived. “The rules are anything goes. The fight will go on until one of you can no longer continue. You must both compete, no throwing the match. There is a team of judges monitoring the fight to ensure you are both truly fighting. If it is determined that either of you did not genuinely compete, the match will be restarted. You may only surrender if you can no longer medically compete. In the event this occurs, a doctor will examine you to validate your surrender. Do you both understand these conditions?”
“Then the match will now begin.”
The referee called for the bell and jogged off the field. With that, the fight was on.
Immediately, Emil lunged at me, attempting to nail me with a flurry of punches. Surprisingly, he wasn’t very fast, and the assault was easy to dodge.
Wait for the opening, just like Eva taught you…
He eventually overcommitted to a strike, leaving him wide open.
There it is!
I sidestepped his missed attack and seized the opportunity to nail him in the face with a punch of my own. But the moment my fist connected, it froze in place, colliding with something I couldn’t see but definitely felt. He read the confusion on my face immediately and grinned.
A slight blue shimmer manifested around my knuckles, the telltale sign of a magic barrier. But before I could react, it expanded, swelling around my fist like a balloon and bursting, sending me flying backwards on the battlefield and landing hard on my stomach.
“Aagh!” I wailed involuntarily as I hit the ground. I scrambled upward immediately to the sound of Emil’s arrogant laughter.
“You should try that again!” he taunted.
I growled and froze in place. The barrier I was warned about was coming into play and I wasn’t sure what to do about it. He took notice of my hesitance and eyed me like I was a mouse caught in a trap.
“Well, if you won’t do something, I will!”
He charged me again, hurling another set of easily avoidable punches at me.
“Come on, Shinsuke. Are you just going to dodge all night? Hit me!”
It was clear to me what his plan was: bait me into attacking him with poorly executed strikes, only to punish me with his barrier for doing so. Alternatively, if I didn’t take the bait, I would have to keep dodging, exhausting myself in the process and making me an easy target for him. It was an easy to spot, yet solid plan that I had no answer for.
This isn’t good. What the hell do I do?!
I could feel myself beginning to slip up dodging so many attacks, and after he nearly nailed me with a spinning backfist, my instincts kicked in. He left himself embarrassingly wide open, so I tried my luck with a roundhouse kick. My foot was met with invisible resistance, however, and the slight blue shimmer appearing around the sole of my boot made it all too clear what was about to happen.
“Nice try~” he sneered, as the barrier expanded and burst again, sending me careening to the ground in a heap.
I got up and found that, this time, the barrier had remained expanded, appearing as a large, shimmering blue bubble around his radius. I picked up a stone off the ground and tossed it at the barrier. It bounced right off, naturally.
“What’s wrong, Shinsuke?” he chuckled. “All you have to do is break through the barrier. Then I’m all yours. What are you waiting for?”
How I’d love to bury this piece of trash headfirst in the ground right now. But getting pissed off isn’t helping. What do I do?
Emil ran a hand through his hair and yawned. “If you don’t do something, I’m just going to keep blowing you away until one of those tumbles breaks your scrawny little neck.”
“So, you admit you’re just going to keep hiding the entire time? I find that funny considering you’ve been acting like beating me would be so easy. If that’s the case, why don’t you drop that stupid barrier and fight me head on?”
“Oh, Shinsuke. Where’s your sense of spectacle? It’s more fun and entertaining for these people if I play with you and watch you squirm. After all, you’ve already been beaten. Surely you realize that?”
I calmed the rage burning inside myself. Deep down, I knew there was only one thing I could do. I had one idea—just one. One I had come up with back when I spoke with Eli in his car.
Eva told me what her plan for fighting Emil would’ve been. It was a brilliant plan, but I wasn’t capable of half the things she was. Initially, I thought it would be impossible to implement her strategy. After all, she was a prodigy, and I was the furthest thing from that.
However, I was exactly what I needed to be—sick and tired. Tired of Emil, tired of weeks of being told I would be easily defeated, tired of endless training, tired of everything I had been through since saving Cynthia. And it was for those reasons that I was able to do what needed to be done.
All my plan needed was for me to surrender my morals. And the minute I did, I found it was disarmingly easy. Almost like I never had any to begin with.
“No, but there is something else I realized,” I started. “The truth is that you’re scared of me, LeClair. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be hiding behind your little barrier. You know that all I need to do is get my hands on you once, then all your little ambitions come crashing down around you.”
He scoffed. “Feckless words from a defeated worm.”
I smirked. “Is that how you’ll justify hiding from me, little pig?”
Emil’s demeanor changed immediately. “What did you just call me…?”
“You heard me.”
I’m going to twist this knife until it bleeds him dry.
Thanks for reading! Business is about to pick up! Will Shinsuke's plan work? Or will it only make things worse for him?